Sunday, 23 June 2013

Autumn wader migration begins

Another cool, blustery June morning. I was joined by Dave and we made our way to the Flash which was to produce the morning's only notable birds.

There are now two pairs of Mute Swans on site, the usual pair at the pool and a second pair initially at the Flash but later on the dragonfly pool. The Flash also produced a drake Gadwall.

Perhaps this is one of the pair which hung around in early spring. Also present were the first three returning Green Sandpipers of the autumn.

One of the three Green Sandpipers
There wasn't much else to report. A single female Tufted Duck on the pool behind the stream, and seven juvenile Coots on the Dragonfly pools being the pick of the bunch.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

It's June but the year-ticks keep coming

It's rather cool for June, but there was a reasonable amount of sunshine and not too much wind this morning. I had the place to myself today, and although there were no waders to see at the Flash, I still managed one year-tick and one other noteworthy bird.

The year-tick in question was a Grey Wagtail, more notable for the date of occurrence than the fact that it turned up on the patch. This is usually an autumn bird here, and my first ever in June. However, they breed along the rivers Arrow and Alne, so they are not too far away. The sighting itself was rather brief, I heard an odd call and searched for the bird, expecting  a Yellowhammer, and then got onto a very long-tailed Wagtail with a flash of white under its wing as it appeared to drop over the brow of a ridge. I retraced my steps and heard more of a classic call, but this time my view was obscured by a thick hedge, and that was that.

My second good sighting was a Grey Partridge, which I flushed from where the bridleway crosses the footpath. I had a very good view of it as it banked and then dropped into long vegetation near the centre of the field. It was a male, so perhaps the female is tending eggs or young somewhere.

I spent the rest of the morning trying to photograph passerines. They fall into two categories: easy ones that sit relatively still for you, like this Goldfinch

A Goldfinch attempting to tap dance
and difficult ones which spend most of their time flitting out of shot, or hiding behind leaves, like this Common Whitethroat
There's a Whitethroat in there somewhere
Several species now have young out of the nest, and I saw Treecreeper, House Sparrows, and Goldfinches with young in tow.

Its still poor for insects, but I did manage to see Large Red Damselfly today.

The year list now stands at 102, a figure I achieved by the end of April in 2011, but not until early August in 2012.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Flaming June

The good weather of the last week is continuing, although it was rather cold and cloudy first thing. I arrived at Netherstead Farm to be greeted by the sound, and sight, of a singing Cuckoo along the ridge of Clouse Wood. The reedbed still contained a couple of singing Reed Warblers while at least two Sedge Warblers were active in the surrounding hedgerows. I bumped into John Y, and we walked back to scope the Cuckoo, which was still there.

John hadn't seen anything better than a Teal, so we were both pleasantly surprised at the pool to find that the first Little Grebe of the year had arrived. I took a quick record shot, and wasn't surprised to find it had disappeared into the vegetation when we got a bit closer.

Little Grebe
At the flashes we saw two well grown Lapwing chicks, a Little Ringed Plover, a white Mallard which had us guessing until it put its head up, and the first returning Teal of the autumn.

Drake Teal
At this point John departed, and I continued alone. As the morning warmed up I started to tally up a few insects; several Azure Damselflies, a Common Blue Damselfly, and a Small Copper were the best of the bunch. I also took a few shots of the local breeding birds.

A Coot on its nest at the dragonfly pools
Pied Wagtail on algae (not snow!)
Finally, an alarm call among the hirundines alerted me to my second year-tick of the day, as a Sand Martin flew over the dragonfly pools and away to the south. I was expecting to get this species in spring, but its not guaranteed, so I was glad I won't be having to rely on the uncertainty of trying to see one on autumn passage.

Other notable June records were the continuing presence of a singing Willow Warbler (often just a passage migrant here), 37 Canada Geese and a Cormorant over, and 23 Swifts catching insects over the farm.

I've had worse June days.

Monday, 3 June 2013

South Stack

Saturday June 1st was spent in glorious sunshine visiting South Stack on Anglesey with two non-birding friends while our wives treated themselves to some retail therapy in Llandudno. We were based at Llanllechid on the Bangor side of the Menai Straits, and even here I recorded Redstart, Siskin and Redpoll in or over our friends' property.

To be honest, it was just nice to see the sea, and South Stack affords great maritime views.

Plenty of wild flowers on the cliffs.

And lots of seabirds.

As well as lots of Guillemots and Razorbills, there were smaller numbers of Puffins, Fulmars, and Kittiwakes. The star resident is the Chough, and we saw about a dozen with the more numerous Jackdaws.

There weren't too many small passerines about, but this Stonechat showed well on wires, its beak full of grubs.

All very pleasant and very different from my usual birding experiences. I haven't heard any news from Morton Bagot this weekend, although Matt Wilmott texted to report a Hobby over Haselor scrape on Sunday.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Every day has it's dog

Friday May 31. On the morning of a rare weekend away, I went back to the patch to try my luck once more. With an annoying doctor's appointment slap bang mid-morning I decided to try an hour from Church Farm from 8.30am, followed by 30 minutes from Netherstead Farm from 11.00am before Lyn and I headed off to North Wales to see some old friends.

Almost my first bird was a singing Goldcrest by the church, the first since January, but the remainder of the visit was dogged by this friendly chap.

He was even more enthusiastic a companion than the last one, and again a Brown Hare became the focus of canine activity, initially speeding away with dog in pursuit only to reappear seconds later heading straight for me. Twenty yards before it reached me its life must have passed before its eyes as it did a visible double-take and fortunately made the right decision which was to run straight passed me with dog still hard at its heels. I'm pleased to say that the collie soon came lolloping back having presumably decided to give up and resume our walk.

Anyway, back to the birds. The heavy rain of the last few days has raised the water-level in the flashes and they contained only 48 Mallards and six Lapwings. However, a species of wader was to become the bird of the morning as I picked up a pair of Curlews flying above the trees lining the stream. It is good to know that there is still a pair in the area, but their appearance may also mean a deserted nesting attempt somewhere nearby.

The only other noteworthy bird was a Sedge Warbler singing from the hedgerow at the south end of the pool. A new locality.